Digital health assistant calls drivers for help


From lane keeping systems to parking aids and attention assistants, there are numerous safety systems in modern cars that are designed to make driving safer for the driver and front passenger. And there are more and more of them. But one thing is still missing: a system that monitors the driver’s health and can intervene in an emergency, call for help and bring the vehicle to a safe stop. At the same time, however, the average age of drivers is increasing, and with it the risk of illness-related emergencies at the wheel.

Scientists from the engineering specialist IAV (Ingenieurgesellschaft Auto und Verkehr) and the University of Oldenburg have now developed a digital assistant that can prevent the dangers of such emergencies and also make it easier for people with previous illnesses to use their cars. It monitors the driver’s health, detects changes from shortness of breath to heart attack and automatically initiates rescue measures in an emergency.

A modular system

“Existing assistance systems such as drowsiness or emergency assistance programs know next to nothing about the state of health of the driver,” says Mark Busse, head of the Connected Systems Integration department at IAV. “As a result, they do not intervene or intervene too late in health emergencies. With the health assistant developed by us, we put both the driver’s vital data and deviations from individual driving behavior at the center of the decision as to whether and to what extent the vehicle will intervene. “

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IAV and the University of Oldenburg have already successfully tested this digital health assistant in a commercial car under the name “The Car That Cares”. Researchers from the University of Oldenburg supported their IAV colleagues with sensor technology, the detection of medical emergencies and the evaluation of medical products.

The security system has a modular structure. So far, it has consisted of a certified chest strap that records pulse and respiratory rate and AI-supported IAV software. This is supplemented by an intelligent and secure IAV cloud infrastructure. In this cloud, an AI developed by IAV analyzes health and vehicle data, creates a digital driver profile from it and transmits relevant threshold values ​​to the vehicle.

System automatically calls for help

If the software detects deviations from the norm in the driver data that represent a safety risk, the vehicle’s assistance and automation functions are activated. The machine learning algorithms are trained to detect online and offline anomalies in the driver’s health, the researchers say. These include mild to severe impairments and emergencies such as shortness of breath, heart attack or loss of consciousness.

“The system reacts consistently and according to the situation. In the event of a slight breathlessness, for example, the system warns the driver via the infotainment system and, if necessary, activates the lane assistant and reduces the speed of the vehicle, ”says Jens Schulze – Head of Department Data Analytics & Fleet Validation at IAV. “In an emergency such as a heart attack or even loss of consciousness, the vehicle comes to a safe stop on the side of the road and sends an eCall.”

For new vehicles and for retrofitting

The system of chest strap, software and cloud connection can be integrated into new vehicles as well as into the existing software architecture of modern series vehicles. This also applies to commercial vehicles, say the developers. “The Car That Cares could monitor the vital signs of truck and bus drivers, make them aware of critical changes – and bring the heavy vehicles to a safe stop in an emergency.”

In the course of time, other measuring systems and sensors are to be integrated that determine, for example, oxygen saturation and sugar content. The secured data infrastructure can be designed flexibly and adapted to the data protection regulations of the respective country.

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